Thursday, 26 April 2007

Had the quote, found the man behind it

Listen. Do not have an opinion while you listen because frankly, your opinion doesn't hold much water outside of Your Universe. Just listen. Listen until their brain has been twisted like a dripping towel and what they have to say is all over the floor.

-- Hugh Elliott, Standing Room Only weblog, 02-14-2003

A few months ago, I found this quote while I was looking for something else entirely. It stopped me cold. It said in a very few words, all I wanted to be able to do when someone I care about (or maybe even someone I just met) needs to talk.

I made the quote part of my signature, replacing a rather sarcastic Douglas Adams quote, I think. Or maybe it was Terry Prachett. In any case, I removed the witty barb, and added something that became a goal. A standard. But I had no idea who the author of this quote was.

As I was driving to work this morning, the quote popped into my head. Along with:

"Look up the author."

It was as clear a message as if someone had said it. No, I am not hearing was a direction in my mind. A strong one.

So I came into work and looked it up. And I found the quote and the Standing Room Only weblog. But no entries more recent than 2006. So I searched again. I found a website that did not seem to be related and started reading that -- Very cool site. So I added it to my blog list and went back to reading. And then I found it...information about who Hugh Elliot is. Where he is. And best of all, where I could find him online!!

Hugh Elliott, besides being a talented writer with a knack for saying exactly what needs to be said in an amazingly clear and unique way, is a man living with AIDS. A man who has, by his own report, lost his family because of his disease. A gay man who, in his new blog, is reading the Christian Bible -- not as a Christian, but as a person who is curious and wants to understand what it says. No agenda to prove it right (or wrong, for that matter.) Just a reader.

Check out his observations and thoughts as he reads. And don't miss his conversation with G-d. We could all learn something from that one.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

What a difference a day makes!!!

Okay...I pulled a poor, poor pitiful me post off the site, and look what happened!

1) The new owner of my condo called and said that I can stay on a month to month basis until I find something new. No deadline!!!!!

2) My bosses called me into the office for a talk...and gave me a raise!

3) I had an unplanned lunch with a friend (one of my anam caras!) and got to talk and laugh in the middle of a crazy busy work day.

4) I got to talk to my sweetie on the phone --- always a treat even though we talk every day. And I learned in last night's conversation that the fact that a call cut off at an awkward moment worried him as much as it did me! (We both thought the other had hung up!)

5) A couple of cool freelance opportunities have come up suddenly

6) Three promising apartment openings called me within the same hour...I will see all three on the weekend or next week.

7) I am going to the beach (not just "the" favourite beach!) to hear jazz and see an art festival for my birthday this weekend with my kids and my sweetie.

Flying high right now! I have to get back to work...end of the month deadline crazies are in full force, so it's back to the catalogs!

Tuss, everyone!

Monday, 23 April 2007

Old country ways and raising American kids

I have a friend who is from Egypt. He's the father of several children, the oldest of whom is turning 16 in about a month.

I casually asked how he was going to deal with her dating in a few weeks, as I assumed that like most conservative parents (like me...ok...conservative about some things...way to the left of liberal on others!) sixteen would be the magic number for dating. Having your oldest date is scary, as I have discovered, so I expected the usual lighthearted litany of fears and commments about waiting up with a shotgun, or interogating the boy under a bright light.

"She is not going to date," he stated flatly. I thought he was joking.

"Yeah right. You wish."

"I'm serious. I want her to concentrate on school. And when she's ready, she'll date seriously and get engaged then married."

My shock clearly showed!

He proceeded to tell me it was "the way we do things." and that I did not understand the Muslim way.

I didn't know what to say. This man who had lived in America for over 30 years, had a beer in front of him as he spoke (his third since I arrived an hour before), never went to the mosque, did not pray the daily prayers nor fast on Ramadan is telling me his daughter must not date because it is the "Muslim way?" This man who has done nothing but complain about his arranged Muslim marriage which lasted for less than a decade but still makes him furious because he so despised the woman...he is about to make his lovely, talented New York-born daughter forgo high school dating because it was not the way when he was teenager over 30 years ago in Egypt?

But she will be on her own in college in two years, I protested. Yes, he agreed. I told about classmates and roomates in college who had been so restricted at home and went completly wild with the freedom of college. I told him about my own dating, stating at 16, with boys my parents met and talked to, with curfews and rules about where and when I could go. But I was allowed to go. So when I went away to college, I knew what to expect and how to handle myself and how to say no. Loudly and repeatedly if necessary.

He became angry.

"I will raise my daughter as I please!"

"But, but..." I sputtered...

Clearly there was no argument he would hear. And as I left to go home, I wondered...

is it possible to bring old country rules into the US and try and apply them to American borne children? Without the social suppport for the rules and the familial models, is it even a reasonable idea to try?

This child will watch her peers go on dates. She will hear about movies and dinners and beach dates and tennis dates and lunches. Will being kept from participating in innocent and wholesome activities breed a respect for the rules from another time and place, or will they create shackles she will break as soon as she is on her own and able?

Not as far down but still not seeing the stars

Wow..I was really down when I wrote that last post (opps...I decided that the last post was just too far down to leave online, so it's gone to where whining self-obsessed posts belong...into the recycling bin! But this one I shall leave up.)

Too many things coming at me at once....

Not only did I lose a friend, and find out that another is leaving the country and yet another the state and the region, but my ex- tried to take away my child support (or at least really cut it back), the owner of my condo announced that it was sold and I will have to move by May 15th-ish, and my annual review at work is tomorrow. And then there were taxes...I HATE doing my taxes! So I am trying frantically to find a place I can

a) afford
b) fit my kids and myself into reasonably (10' x 11' bedrooms just won't work for two beds!)
c) move into in three weeks or less

My so-called friends have responded to my urgent need for a new residence with a very helpful

"Well, I hope it all works out for you."

No offers to help me find a place, make a phone call, ask a friend if they know of a place available in the area...I work 8-6 M-F, so visiting places isn't an option when the offices all close at 5 pm! But who cares?

Guess they weren't the friends I thought they were. A startling and sad revelation.

Plus I am trying to figure out HOW exactly I am going to move! Two kids and a mom, a rather steep set of concrete stairs to get everything down? Does not work! Local movers want upwards of $600 for the two hours or so it would take to move my love seat, small dining room set, 4 bookcases, three beds and two dressers to a place within 5 miles of the starting point. Yikes!

Just entirely tooooooo much for one woman at one time.

I will somehow get through it. Sans a few fair weather friends. A little lighter for the losses, a little wiser for the lessons.

I guess that's what it's all about. Still working on all those lessons.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Praying with all my heart... and hearing an answer

Sometimes in the midst of everything falling apart, prayers can be answered. Prayers you never expected to see answered.

Someone you thought would be a part of your life forever and ever, and then one day, was gone...

Someone you imagined suddenly finding on your doorstep late one night, or seeing in your favourite cafe on a sunny afternoon...

Someone whose car you thought you saw at the market or the next lane over a few cars ahead on the freeway...

Someone whose name called out by a stranger in the mall made you stop and look, on the off chance it was him (or her)...

Someone you finally left in the past, after long nights of tears and countless futile bargains with G-d, or whatever you imagine the powers in the universe to be...

Sometimes, somehow, one day, you might be standing in the post office line or paying for groceries or answering e-mails in your office -- something ordinary and every day, and your phone rings. And instead of the almost-anybody-else-in-the-universe you thought it could possibly be, it's him. It's that voice you recognize from a single hello.

And you stand there, stunned, all the words you once imagined saying if you ever had the chance have suddenly vanished from your brain. And you feel like you're 10 years old and a grown-up expects you to do something that you just don't quite get. Like talk. So you squeeze out a squeeky hello, and then you wait...not having any idea what the next words should be.

You babble. And odds are they babble. They ask what's new. And even if you have a new job, new house and dozens of other new things in your life since they left, you say "nothing." Because for that instant, you are back where you were when they left and nothing really has changed.

And after only a few minutes, you hang up. Even if you used to talk for hours on end and have saved up years worth of things to say, you say good-bye. You promise to talk again. Soon. And you stand there.


Because the call you once prayed for every minute of every day came.

And you didn't know what to say.

Over the next day or two it sinks in...and then you start to wonder. What about the life I have now? Do I want to go back to who and what I was then? Haven't I changed and grown and learned since then. And you don't call back. And he does not call back.

And you look at the people you have in your life now, and you imagine leaving them behind. And you can't. Because they are the ones you choose to be with now. The ones who might have caught you as you fell, or met you when you arose, like the pheonix from that past sorrow...and they saw you soar for the first time as the new being you are now.

That call came on Tuesday, as I stood by my car, juggling mail to take into the post office. I almost didn't answer. It was not a good time. That it could have been him on the other end never occured to me. But in the end, I answered. I'm dealing with some legal issues left over from my now several years old divorce and thought it might be my attorney. The area code was right for it to be her. But it was not her. It was him.

And one hello was all I needed to hear to know that.

So the question is: now what? I am not who I was when we parted a year ago. I have changed. I have grown. I am stronger, sadder, happier, weaker, smarter, more confused, more contemplative, and more impulsive than I was then. I look different to myself when I look in the mirror. The sorrow has aged me, I think. But my eyes are more peaceful than I remember them looking when we were together.

For now, we are 1700 miles apart. And I cannot see that changing any time soon.

Tonight is a night for the beach. For quiet conversations about here and now and maybe even tomorrow. I think I've looked backwards long enough.

Monday, 9 April 2007

Midnight at the Beach

Silently, tears fell. The sadness for lost friends, lost love, lost dreams, lost years. For sitting in that beautiful spot all alone. For friends who never showed up. For things that had once seemed a certainty and now certainly will never be....

On Saturday night, I was supposed to meet a friend for tea. We haven't managed to get together since last September, and this was supposed to be a chance to sit down and talk and enjoy a cup of tea on a beautiful evening. He's asked at least a dozen times, but our schedules make get-togethers tough. About a year and half ago, he lost his beloved wife in a car accident, and he needs someone who will still listen to his happy memories of their time together. I listen on the phone, but it's not the same as sitting with someone who knows the story and understands. Finally, we had a night that worked for both of us.

We spoke on the phone at about 8:30. I told him it would be an hour or two until I could get there...I wanted to get my little one to bed, and take care of something for my teenaged daughter. No problem, he said. Just call me when you're on your way. A couple of minutes after 10, I left my apartment. I called his house. No answer. He's probably busy, on another line, away from his phone. I drove towards our meeting place. Fifteen minutes later, I was almost there. I called again. Still, no answer.

I decided to give him a few more minutes. I pulled into the parking lot. Called my daughter to check on her. Chatted for a few minutes. Still no call. I called a third answer. Sent a text. No response. After a dozen requests to get together and at least three times that many calls asking me to come over, I had been stood up.

It was almost 11. I was only a few blocks from the beach. I started my car and headed for the water.

A few minutes and a few coins for the meter later, I was walking on the sand.

At the edge of the water, someone had left a of those white plastic chairs you see on porches and patios. I slipped off my shoes and headed for the water's edge and that chair. And there I sat, for the next hour. Just me, my thoughts and a chair on a beach.

I was far enough from the beachside restaurants and clubs that the music was reduced to a vague background noise. A few late night fishermen were at the water's edge further down the beach. A brightly lit cruise ship drifted across the horizon.

It was chilly, but I sat there and watched the waves. I thought about love and lost love and life and the future. The tide was coming in, and every once in awhile, the water came up the edge of my chair. I tried to figure out whether having friends who were "no-shows" said something about me or about the friends or maybe about about our society where RVSP's were often overlooked (a complaint I had heard from other moms at school, and two couples planning weddings last year.) It seemed to be happening a lot.

The tide came in a bit more, and the waves got bigger. The water came up to my chair almost every time now. I sat and thought about the fact that twenty minutes, less than a gallon of gas and four quarters for the meter got me a ringside seat at the ocean. I remembered cold nights in my Pennsylvania farm house when such a moment would have been a dream come true. A fantasy I hardly dared contemplate.

The wind picked up, and I curled up in my jacket, wishing I'd worn a sweatshirt instead of a t-shirt. I watched the curl of the waves as they came to shore. And although I was filled with gratitude for that moment, that place, that experience, I cried. Silently, tears fell. The sadness for lost friends, lost love, lost dreams, lost years. For sitting in the beautiful spot all alone. For friends who never showed up. For things that had once seemed a certainty and now certainly will never be.

So much that I keep inside came out there. With no one to explain to, in the blessed darkeness of midnight on the beach, I let the pain pour out until the tears ran dry.

We all keep so much inside. Pain, fear, loneliness. I know I do. I know my friend does. Sometimes, the tears just need to come.

I took a few deep breaths of the salty night air then headed back to my car, and drove home. Emptier. Lighter.

Maybe there is a reason both tears and the sea are made of salt water

Thursday, 5 April 2007

It all started with two kittens....

I saw a post on Blogher by Birdie Jaworski about her mistake in guessing the genders of two flea market bunnies. More bunnies!! She asked for more stories of unintentional pets.

Unintentional pets...I like that term! And I've had them...OK, Birdie, here is my story.

For me, it started with two tiny kitten rescued from under a neighbor's wooden porch in rural Pennsylvania. It was early November and the nights were getting cold. My neighbor heard them, saw the mom cat climbing down through a hole on the far side of the porch, and decided that they would freeze to death if we did not rescue them.

As soon as we came into his yard, the mother cat took off. Armed with tuna and milk, we sat out there -- 3 adults, and every kid in the neighborhood. In our rural community, kittens were hardly novel, but still child had to take a turn trying to lure those tiny bundles of fur out from under the porch.

We finally got them all out, distributing them to neighbor families to take home. One family even adopted the mom cat. My kids and I took two...we guessed at genders and named one Maxine and one Max...and headed home to introduce our new family members to Black Cat, our aged somewhat battered cat rescued years before from an Alberston's parking lot in Salt Lake City.

We needed more cats anyhow, we reasoned. Our two acres and three buildings were home to more small fuzzy beasts than I cared to contemplate, and one aging feline just wasn't enough. I had already ruled out poisons, so cats were the only way to control the burgeoning rodent population. You live in the country, you need cats. Even a city girl like me could see that.

What a city girl did not know was the problem.

  1. I cannot really tell the gender of kittens. I can only guess. Badly. Thus when we let "Max" sometimes go outside and kept "Maxine" inside, we actually sending an unspade girl kitty outside. (When we finally realized our mistake, it was too late...Max stayed Max despite our discovery, but Maxine became Maxim.) Thus the first batch of kittens arrived. We found homes for them. Money was tight so surgery was not an option yet.

  2. Cats have no qualms about incest. Who knew? Certainly not me! Thus even after we discovered our error and kept both cats indoors, we acquired more "unintentional pets." Litter number two. We found homes for the kittens and made appointments for both cats to get fixed. Maxim kept his appointment.

  3. Cats are escape artists. They can get out an attic vent or a slightly opened window you think is much too small for a mouse. Or any number of other openings one finds in a 227 year old farmhouse. We found Max 2 days later (how did she know about the appointment?) The vet informed us she was once again expecting. I cannot kill babies of any kind. Litter number three....

There were others. Cats who came from ours, and cats who joined us from other places. After awhile, you lose track of just how many kittens there were...

The budget was never there to fix most of the remaining cats. We found good homes for most of them on neighboring farms. And we loved the ones who remained with us..Yoda, Charlie, Nancy Drew, Iago, Shippo, to name a few. Unintentional pets to be sure but loved none the less.

Our property remained rodent free. The outdoor cats lived in the barn and grew fat, with beautiful shiny coats from their diet of Pennsylvania mice and voles. The indoor ones lived in luxury, sleeping with the children and feasting on Iams and Science Diet or napping with Misha, my Siberian Husky on chilly winter days. Black Cat lived to be almost 16, a wise uncle to the newer cats.

We lived in that farmhouse for almost a decade. When we left in April of 2006, we found homes for all of our indoor and outdoor cats. We cried when we left Maxim behind, our now giant orange cat, who was adopted by the house's new owners as the Bed and Breakfast's mascot.

Unintentional? Yes, though I prefer to say serediptious.... Unloved? Never!

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

There are many ways to lose a friend...

Sometimes one person moves far away, and despite promises to stay in touch and visit often, the days and weeks and miles come between. Conversations become shorter and the times between them longer. Then one day, without anyone realizing it's happening, the two go from "friends" to "someone I used to know."

Other times some one comes between the two, and loyalties are challenged. A new love interest, a new spouse, a new baby...and suddenly there is no time or energy for the way things used to be. We may be sad, but we understand that people change and that sometimes a friend for one season may not be the right friend for another.

Sometimes there is a parting of ways because of a betrayal, and try though they might, the chain of trust has been shattered. And friends become strangers or even enemies.

But the hardest to take is when one never really knows what happened. One day the person is part of your life. You talk, you visit, you make plans, you laugh. And then in what seems like an instant, the other is gone. Calls are refused. Visits cease. And in the online world, your IM's are rejected. You search your heart, trying to understand what you did, what you said. You talk to friends. You go over and over in you head, trying to imagine what went wrong. But still you have no answers. If you do see the person, your questions remain unanswered. You want to know if there is something you can do to make it right again. They don't want to talk. You have ceased to exist for them.

For one of my friends, I have ceased to exist. At some point in the past few weeks, he decided to end the relationship. To close the door. And I cannot understand. But I have to accept.

I wrote early on in this blog about my efforts at non-attachment. And my limited success. And so, in the spirit of learning that spiritual skill, I offer this post. Good bye my friend. I have learned much from you and I am grateful to have had you in my life for the time the universe allowed. The door will always remain open on my side, should you ever wish to walk back through it.

I wish you well in all that comes your way. May your path be one of love and happiness and peace.